As much as I am loving being back to work and the fulfilment that comes with that, I have also been reminded of all the annoying things that come with the profession. So, here are 5 things that grind my gears… Teacher edition!
- Comment from non-teachers about how great teachers have it; “You start at 9 and finish at 3”, “teaching is such an easy job”. If I’m completely honest, I can see where the misconception comes from. However, these regular comments couldn’t be further from the truth. When it comes to teaching, I’ve always used this analogy to describe the workload; I feel like I go under water for the 7/8 weeks of that half term and I only come up for air when there is a school break. Teaching is more than delivering lessons to the children- a lot of teachers spend their break times, lunch times and evenings planning lessons, marking, setting targets, setting interventions e.t.c for a range of children (Children that are working at different year groups, children with special needs, children with English as Additional language e.t.c). These range of children need differentiated tasks and lessons. So, the teacher isn’t just planning for a class, most teachers are planning for several ‘classes’ EVERYDAY for different subjects. After being in school for 9h30mins, I still spend my evenings doing more work. A teacher’s work never ends.
- The assumption that we get long holidays- Yes, it seems like we get longer holidays than most professions but when you really think about it, you realise that we don’t. Here’s an example: The last summer holiday was just under 6 weeks. Just before the summer holidays started, the current teacher of my class-to-be hands over all the details and information of the new class. After receiving this information, I began to think about the different strategies I have to put in place so that every child in that class makes progress; I take their individual tests results, well being, their social and emotional needs, friendships, family life into consideration. I unwillingly spent the first 2 weeks of my holiday thinking about the needs of my class-to-be. The next 2 weeks was spent with my family in Ireland. During these 2 weeks, the thought of school constantly lingered in my mind and I had to keep reminding myself that I was on holidays and shouldn’t be thinking about work. Finally, the last 2 weeks of the summer holidays came. I spent these 2 weeks getting my new classroom ready for my new class; I was getting display boards ready, making name labels for their trays, deciding where each child would sit and making sure that there weren’t any clashes, making resources to support their learning e.t.c. So, although I theoretically had 6 weeks off, most of that time was spent thinking about school and getting ready for school. Also, it is important to note that although we get paid during the holidays, we do not actually get paid for the holidays. We have a fixed pay which is split over 12 months. So, all the work we do during the holidays is unpaid.
- Teachers are expected to be miracle workers – The expectations on teachers from people on the outside can be sometimes ridiculous. Yes, it is our job to teach the children a range of skills. However, it is not my job to teach your child how to blow their nose or tie their shoelaces. I shouldn’t have to teach your child how to take care of their things and I shouldn’t be expected to keep tabs on their belongings especially when they are old enough to do it.
- The emotional baggage – As a primary school teacher, you spend majority of the day with the same children for 9 months. Inevitably, you get emotionally attached to these children and their personal baggage. You find yourself constantly thinking of ways to ensure that they make progress- progress in this context doesn’t just mean educational. A lot of us have to deal with children who have Social, Emotional, Mental and Physical needs and it is part of our job to cater to these needs as much as we possibly can. I have personally had many sleepless nights due to worrying about a child’s need; that child who doesn’t come into school often enough, the child who has ADHD and struggles to concentrate, the child who struggles to control their emotions e.t.c. I find myself carrying the children’s baggage and sometimes feeling that I am not doing enough.
- Observations – Each term, every teacher gets observed- this is mainly to make sure that teachers are implementing good practices. Depending on the type of observation, you could have 2 or 3 people walk in to your room at the same time to watch how you teach. I understand the purpose and importance of it. However, knowing this doesn’t make it any easier. I find myself stressing over what could only be a 20 minutes drop in. Every other lesson that week takes a back seat; I constantly re-do my plans for the lesson, constantly second-guessing myself. During the observation, I literally turn into jelly. My heart pounds as I await their arrival. Every little creak makes me jump. For some reason, the knowledge that someone is watching me purely for the purpose of judging me makes me forget everything I am supposed to be doing; I start to trip over my own words, I forget to do things that I would naturally do on a day to day basis. It is awful! And we have three of these each year! You’d think I’d be used to them now but I’m in my third year of teaching and nothing has changed.
To be clear, I absolutely love teaching. I am currently unable to teach at the moment due to being ill and I miss it terribly. I’ve been worrying about who will be teaching my class and what they will learn or not learn in the few days that I’m away. I enjoy teaching and the sense of fulfilment that comes from knowing that I have had a positive impact on a child. However, like all jobs, teaching isn’t perfect!
Till next time